WIDOW

While cleaning out some old paper work from back in the day, I found an essay I wrote for a college. I’m not sure which is worse the fact that I still have this paper after 17 years or that I’ve waited this long to clean out my decaying paperwork.

WIDOW

At 29 years of age, I had no idea that I would be forced to handle the most adult decision, scary situation, and uncertainness of what is death. Death is something that the old folks worry about and can acknowledge. Not me. I am young, full of life, and a first time wife and mother. But it has happened. I can still feel the shock for it lingers like a bad smell trapped in the hairs of my nose. Even after brief moments of what can be accounted as restless sleep voices haunt me with questions. “What do I do now? How do I take care of our son? What about tomorrow? Is this real?”

I wake up because I have to, not that I want to. Finding refuge in my lack of sleep is a better place to live for the time being. Shaking off fuzziness that swims about my head I realize that my surroundings are full of muffled voices. Tears used to roll freely down my cheeks but have dried up. Refraining from sucking my thumb and drooling on the blanket I lay perfectly still, knowing I am faced with a day of mind numbing things to do. I curl into my son’s favorite position, pulling my knees to my chest I burry my head into my knees as the sun filters over the room.

Today, I long to be alone needing to deal with all the questions at hand. It’s amazing to me that you can be surrounded by people and not hear, feel, or see them. As soon as I am in sight I am held close and bombarded with words of condolence. I nod in recognition but it’s only a motion. I wish I could feel each one of their comforts and take heed of their wise words but all I want to do is retreat back to the fetal position. How can this be? Today’s start is a call to the hospital to release the body. That’s what it is now, a body. I slip out the front door to free myself of all the prying eyes.

The voices have faded with my retreat outside and I call the hospital morgue. Not an experience I would have ever dreamed that I would face. The conversation starts with more words of condolences. The mortuary assistant explains to me that they cannot release the body to the funeral home until the autopsy is complete. They are still working with the forensic lab and the case is still under investigation. Body, investigation, autopsy… My surrounding begin to fade into one mono color. My knees begin to falter as I heard the words echoing deep thorough my soul.

Less than thirteen hours ago, I pulled into my neighborhood. I am unable to pull into my own driveway because it is surrounded by crime scene units, local police, and unmarked cars. So many unfamiliar faces and a sea of uniforms. Should there even be this many patrol cars here? It’s a scene from a horror movie or an episode of a true crime television show. Yellow crime scene tape has been wrapped around the pillars of the front porch all the way around to the open carport. Trails of uniformed men come out of the porch door and slide under the tape to draw in a large clean breath of air. They are huddled just outside of the tape when another group moves inside. I have watched this in slow motion as I pull into my next door neighbor and best friend’s driveway.

The neighbors seem to be very watchful of the event that is unfolding. What piercing eyes they all have. Scooping up the baby I scan my front lawn for any sign of recognition. I find one. A familiar face, a friend, a high school pal, and he’s in uniform. I give a worried smile and we walk towards each other. I know good news wasn’t going to be delivered. His eyes are soft and yielding, but still professional, as he reached out his arms to me. I was surprised to see him here knowing he is a homicide detective. He said that he was on his way home when heard the call over the radio. He just wanted to be here for me so he turned around and came straight over. Standing in silence for a few moments he takes a deep breath not yet sure how to tell a friend of this reality. My worst fears from the past few weeks, has now come true. The numbness sets in. My son feels my weakness and starts to squirm on my hip. Seeing the shock on my face we are led to an awaiting car. Introductions are made but I cannot grasp what I have been told. I was just introduced to the Victim’s Advocate.

My best friend and neighbor of three years was the first to inform me of my new role in life. She looked me in the eyes and held my hand and proceeded with the phrase that still haunts me to this day. “I want to be the first one to tell you this, you are a widow. You are a 29 year old widow, with an infant.” The words tear through me like a sharp blade cutting into raw flesh. Leaving a wound that is gaping and bleeding.

I am not even old enough to be a widow. A widow is someone who is old, gray, and has lived a thousand years. A widow has grown children. A Grandmother, maybe even my own mother, but not me. I am young, aren’t I? Whatever the answer is to this I must continue forging on to the next moment. What now? I keep asking this to myself over and over and all I get in response is the echoing of the same question. I am watching the scene unfold from my friends embrace.

The crowed has thinned and forensics is taking items in bags to their van. I have also noticed the flash of a camera coming from what was our son’s room. Tears roll from my eyes uncontrollably. How did this happen? I wipe the tears from my eyes just in time to see them rolling the body out of the house up the small incline to the waiting van. My back stiffens and I see the body bag clinging to the outline of my husband. Not a body, my husband. I am frozen in time and my emotions get the better of me. Caring arms grasp my shaking body.

Ignoring all the quiet stares and deafening silence, I place the receiver back into its resting place. I crawl into my mother’s bed as I did when I was child and prayed for solace. The ringing of the phone; the constant nagging, monotonous ringing. Will it ever subside? I no longer hear it but I feel the vibration of every ring. Maybe it’s the shock. I don’t even know anymore. Maybe it’s because I cannot offer my own mind comfort. Please stop the ringing! “I am no longer available!” screams my inner voice.

The house comes alive with movement once again. The silence and loneliness disappear for quick moment only to reappear just as fast. I hear distant conversations about me but not to me. Everyone is talking around me like I am the one who died. My emotions give way to anger. Why do I have to make all of the decisions, all the arrangements? My sanity cannot take any more questions or make any more life decisions. There should be someone else that can decide if the body should be donated to science. Or, if the body is intact enough, to be an organ donor.

A panicked thought enters my foggy head, my ten year old step daughter? How am I going to explain what happened to her daddy when I cannot decipher it myself. How am I to muster up the strength to tell our son that his father has chosen to take his own life? I can’t get over how this monster has taken him. How this monster has made me age beyond my years. It has made my green eyes dull, my muscles weak, and my smile vanish. And yet none of it changes the reality that is so hard to grasp. He is gone and not ever coming back. I am now a widow. Yes, a widow. A 29 year old, single mother with an infant, widow.

Darkness fills the room and exhaustion gives into sleep, finally. Tomorrow. Another day to deal with this death. How long must I be tortured with the loss? The fetal position is my salvation and I sleep with my eyes open and my mind swarming with questions. What will I face tomorrow? Will the questions ever be answered? How long will it last?

A widow sounds so permanent. So definite, like death itself. Tomorrow. Let’s just get through tomorrow.

Hope Shines